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Article

Foundations of Rivalry Research  

David R. Dreyer

Though rivalry is not isolated to international politics, interstate rivalries are particularly important given their conflict propensities and destructiveness. Tremendous progress has been made in determining the causes of rivalry initiation, maintenance, escalation, and termination. The empirical results of such research rest on how rivalry has been conceptualized and operationalized. There are several approaches to conceptualizing and operationalizing rivalry. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. Dispute density approaches, which identify rivals as states that engage in repeated instances of militarized conflict over time, have higher levels of measurement reliability than validity. The strategic rivalry approach, on the other hand, which identifies rivals as states that view one another as threatening competitors and enemies, has a higher level of measurement validity than reliability. This review provides an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of scholarly approaches used for identifying cases of rivalry. Existing rivalry research provides a foundation from which to further develop rivalry approaches. Given that the concept of rivalry has only recently been applied outside of the dyadic interstate context, intrastate and complex rivalry conceptualization and operationalization warrants further exploration. Due to the existence of several mature dyadic interstate rivalry approaches, developing additional distinct approaches for the dyadic interstate context is less imperative than integrating existing approaches. There are several ways this can potentially be done, such as by combining elements of multiple perspectives in ways that minimize weaknesses, through conceptual mapping, or by developing an ordinal measure of rivalry.

Article

Special Relationships in Foreign Policy  

Sebastian Harnisch

Special relationships are durable and exclusive bilateral relations between autonomous polities that are based on mutual expectations of preferential treatment by its members and outsiders as well as regular entanglement of some (external) governance functions. The concept has become more prominent over the past three decades in part because of recent changes in international relations and foreign policy analysis theory (the constructivist and relational turn) and long-term shifts in the social structure of international relations, that is, decolonization, international criminal and humanitarian law, which have posed questions of solidarity, reconciliation, and responsibility of current and past special relationships. The term special relationship has a long and diverse history. After World War II, it was used mainly to depict the Anglo-American security relationship as special. Today, well over 50 international relationships are deemed special. Despite this trend, no common theoretical framework has been developed to explain their emergence, variation, persistence and demise. Realism interprets special relationships as asymmetrical power relations, in which presupposed counterbalancing behavior does not occur because shared ideas or institutions mitigate autonomy concerns. Liberalism postulates that the special relatedness occurs when policy interdependence due to shared commercial interests or ideas allows deep cooperation and trust building. Social constructivism, in turn, assumes self-assertion but does not presuppose with or against whom the self, usually a polity, identifies itself. It follows that special relations may occur between dyads with positive identification (Germany-Israel after reconciliation) or negative identification, such as in the enduring rivalry between India and Pakistan. As a relational term, special relationships do not sit easily with the first generation of foreign policy analysis focusing on decision making processes rather than the policies themselves. As a consequence, special relationships have been primarily conceptualized either as a tool of foreign policy or as one context factor influencing foreign policy choices. In relational theories, such as social constructivism, special relations, such as solidarity relations, are not causally independent from actors, as these relations also define the actors themselves.

Article

Constructing a General Model Accounting for Interstate Rivalry Termination  

William R. Thompson

Unlike many topics in international relations, a large number of models characterize interstate rivalry termination processes. But many of these models tend to focus on different parts of the rivalry termination puzzle. It is possible, however, to create a general model built around a core of shocks, expectation changes, reciprocity, and reinforcement. Twenty additional elements can be linked as alternative forms of catalysts/shocks and perceptual shifts or as facilitators of the core processes. All 24 constituent elements can be encompassed by the general model, which allows for a fair amount of flexibility in delineating alternative pathways to rivalry de-escalation and termination at different times and in different places. The utility of the unified model is then applied in an illustrative fashion to the Anglo-American rivalry, which ended early in the 20th century.

Article

Image Theory and the Initiation of Strategic Rivalries  

Manjeet S. Pardesi

The assessment of an opponent as a strategic rival is analytically equivalent to evaluating its strategic image. The central decision-makers of states reevaluate the image of other regional states and the great powers of the system in response to strategic shocks, as they have an impact on interstate interaction capacity. Interaction capacity in the international system can be affected by three types of changes—military, political, and economic. A strategic rivalry is a process that initiates when the central decision-makers of at least one state in a dyad ascribe the image of an enemy to the other as a consequence of such shocks. It is important to empirically demonstrate the ascription of these images through a cognitive process because strategic rivalries are a function of decision-maker perceptions by definition. Four types of enemy images are identified here—expansionist states, which are territorially revisionist; hegemonic states, which circumscribe a given state’s foreign policy choices; imperial states, which intervene in a given state’s domestic affairs in addition to being hegemonic; and peer-competitors, who pose latent and/or long-term threats. Once formed, these images are sustained over long periods of time and change only slowly in response to additional strategic shocks. These images also inform the strategy that a given state pursues toward its rival.

Article

Proxy Wars: Implications of Great-Power Rivalry for the Onset and Duration of Civil War  

Indra de Soysa

Theories of civil war focus largely on factors internal to countries, generally ignoring the systemic effects of superpower rivalry during the Cold War, or great power politics associated with regional rivalries and ambitions. The question of the importance of proxiness of civil wars potentially challenges notions of commitment and time-inconsistency problems associated with explanations of why rational agents fail to find less costly bargains compared with fighting costly wars. Great powers often influence the politics of lesser powers by supporting sides in contentious politics as a means to achieve foreign policy objectives relatively cheaply. Models of civil war that focus exclusively on in-country ills, thus, would have very limited predictive power. It is argued here that great powers influence the politics of other nations without bearing the costs of direct involvement by supplying the logistics that allow the feasibility of rebellions. Examining these issues is all the more critical today because the multipolar world emerging out of the Cold War era promises to generate proxy struggles in many strategic places. While the study of civil war moves in the direction of disaggregating in order to understand micro processes associated with rebellion, it might be prudent to examine the interplay of factors between the micro and macro processes in multilevel models because the feasibility of fighting over not fighting is likely to be decided at higher rather than lower levels of aggregation. How to cauterize great-power machinations in civil war must in turn become a primary focus of international institutions, such as the United Nations, for strengthening instruments that would curtail external influences that propagate civil wars.

Article

Fighting Abroad, Fighting at Home (and Vice Versa): Identifying the Relationship Between Civil and Interstate Conflict with Fewer Assumptions  

Michael Colaresi

There has been increasing scholarly attention paid to the relationship between civil war and international disputes. Although this literature includes a rich set of theoretical expectation, the empirical evidence offered to support them thus far has included several important shortcomings. Most crucially, previous influential models of the effect of civil war on interstate disputes assume that civil war initiation and duration is exogenous from underlying international hostilities. This assumption neither matches the theoretical mechanisms being analyzed, nor is it necessary to bring quantitative evidence to bear on the interstices of domestic and interstate conflict. Special regressor methods (as suggested by Lewbel in 2001) help account for the cross-level, monadic-to-dyadic, relationship, as well as the potential for endogeneity. Conventional single-equation approaches, as well as parametric bivariate probit models, produce biased inferences on the effect of civil war on interstate disputes. Using the negative of the log of inter-capital distance as the special regressor, there is an absence of clear evidence for an exogenous effect of civil war on interstate conflict. Instead, more research should explore the role of dynamic international hostility in causing both conflict processes.

Article

The Steps to War: Theory and Evidence  

Andrew P. Owsiak

The steps-to-war theory maintains that war results from the issues under dispute and how states handle these issues. Its foundation rests on the territorial explanation of war, which argues that territorial issues are more conflict-prone than non-territorial ones because these issues constitute a salient security threat that realism recommends be addressed via power politics (i.e., the use of force, including alliance- and armament-building). When states employ power politics, however, the dispute festers, thereby causing recurring militarized conflict; creating feelings of threat, enmity, and competition (i.e., rivalry); producing counter-alliances and arms races; and generally building the more hostile, war-prone world that states originally sought to avoid. Each step taken—from a territorial dispute to rivalry (i.e., recurring militarized disputes) to alliance-building to armament building—therefore increases the probability that war will occur. Existing empirical evidence supports the steps-to-war theory’s predictions in numerous ways. Tests of the entire theory, for example, demonstrate the dangerousness of territorial disputes, the tendency to manage territorial disputes via power politics, and that individual steps reinforce one another. Other bodies of research connect the individual steps directly to the likelihood that war will occur or highlight the connections between these individual steps—much as the theory predicts. Despite strong empirical support, however, much work remains to be done. Future research should consider the sequencing of the steps to war, investigate why the effects of certain steps vary across different epochs (e.g., alliances differ in their effects on war during the 18th and 19th centuries), identify the alternative paths to war, and study the paths to peace more explicitly—as obtaining peace may not be as simple as removing the known causes of war.

Article

Empirics of Stable Peace  

Reşat Bayer

Much of the empirical international relations research implicitly equates peace with the absence of war. Moreover, causes of war are seen as sufficient for understanding peace. Such an approach turns peace into a nonevent. The stable peace literature has challenged this perspective in several ways. Firstly, peace is multilayered and additional dimensions are considered beyond violence. Secondly, it attempts to explain movements among different levels (or qualities) of peace. This study reviews the stable peace literature. It also considers alternate conceptualizations of peace. Findings from comparative case studies are considered next to those from the emerging quantitative literature that explicitly focuses on peace. Attention to internal peace and links between micro and macro levels of analysis are some of the areas highlighted as needing greater attention.

Article

Arms Buildups and the Use of Military Force  

David F. Mitchell and Jeffrey Pickering

The empirical literature on arms buildups and the use of interstate military force has advanced considerably over the last half century. Research has largely confirmed that a relationship exists between arms buildups and the subsequent use of force, although it is historically contingent. The relationship seems to have existed in some earlier historical periods but has not been a feature of international politics since 1945. Broader work such as the steps-to-war model brings understanding to such variation by demonstrating how arms races are interrelated with other causes of conflict, such as territorial disputes and alliances. Still, many important dimensions of the arms race–conflict connection remain to be explored. Differences between qualitative and quantitative arms races, for example, have not received sufficient empirical scrutiny. Precise theory also needs to be developed on direct and indirect relationships between arms races and conflict, and such theory requires empirical investigation.

Article

Empirical Knowledge on Foreign Military Intervention  

Jeffrey Pickering and David F. Mitchell

While the empirical literature on foreign military intervention has made considerable progress identifying the causes and consequences of military intervention, we still have much to learn about the subject. Mixed and even contradictory results remain common in the literature, and cumulative knowledge has in many instances proven elusive. Arguably the two most prominent theoretical approaches in recent scholarship, the bargaining model and the rivalry approach, have provided important insight into the phenomenon. They would nonetheless benefit from further refinement. Common explanatory variables outside of these two approaches also require further theoretical and empirical development. The literature has recently begun to examine the impact that military intervention has on target societies as well, with particular attention being given to target state democratization, human rights development, and conflict resolution. Empirical research could shed additional light on all of these phenomena by developing more detailed theory and data on intervention targets. It would also profit from incorporating systematic knowledge on leaders’ proclivities to use military force into current theoretical models.